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Nichol Kessinger wanted to be FIRST in Chris Watts’ Life

Never settle for second best. Shan’ann didn’t. Which was why everything she had was the best. The best house, expensive car, expensive school for her kids, a husband at her beck and call etc.


But what happens when what’s best for you isn’t someone else’s idea of what’s best for them? What if what’s best for the other person isn’t you? What should that person do? After all – isn’t this all about making 100% sure you get what you deserve – which is for you to be the #1 person not only in your life, but in someone else’s life?

Isn’t that the fairy tale?

Unusually, we’re going to be interpreting this idea of being first not from Shan’ann’s perspective, nor from Watts’. We’re going to follow the psychology from the perspective of the mistress.

If Nut Gate was about Shan’ann knowing what was best for her child [and perhaps her inner child], Deeter Gate was about Nichol Kessinger knowing what was best for herself.

Deeter Gate happened when Kessinger went to the Watts home. On the first visit Watts made lunch for them.


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But the second visit two weeks later was different. Kessinger admits in her interview that she was impressed by the house. Even awed by it. And probably more than a little intimidated by what she saw at face value.


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We get a tiny glimpse of additional insight into what really happened during that second visit to the house on July 14th, via the Third Confession.

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You wouldn’t know of Kessinger’s “despair” on that second visit from the discovery documents, nor from CBI agent Kevin Koback’s interview with Kessinger on August 16th.

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Incidentally, it was on the same day as this interview that Kessinger surrendered some of Watts’ clothing that he’d left at her house, as well as other items of forensic worth – his birthday card to her on July 3rd, and his letter written on July 30th, the day before he flew to meet with his family in North Carolina.

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But Deeter Gate had such a profound impact on the affair, and on Watts, it was still at the forefront of Watts’ mind two weeks later. Deeter Gate was effectively the moment Nichol was confronted for the first time by the reality of Watts family. This shocked her, and her shock and despair in turn caused Watts to panic.

The semantics of that despair matter immensely. What his mistress was communicating was something Watts knew all too well within his family – this feeling of being second. Nichol didn’t want that, and Watts understood that. He wanted to make sure she knew how much he cared for her, and he wanted to make sure she wasn’t second. Not just that she didn’t feel second, but that she wasn’t – in reality – second.

At first glance, looking at the love note dated July 30th reveals about as much as the drone did during its first reconnaissance over CERVI 319.

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But looking closer, there are clearly idiosyncrasies hidden in plain sight, hidden – effectively – in the detail.

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The word first appears five times in the 86 word love note [excluding the lyrics at the end]. The final instance of the word is in ALL CAPS. That’s once instance approximately ever 17 words, or basically one out of every two sentences. The last sentence also includes an indirect reference to firsts, where Watts states, reassuringly:

And I want to keep having them [firsts] with you…

Bear in mind he’s about to leave for North Carolina. He likely slept at Kessinger’s home before departing very early the next morning for the airport.


Probably he wrote this note at home, after sorting out the dog and alarm – and possibly one more thing. Getting a supply of Oxy from the basement.

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We know for a fact that he had the notion of FIRSTS on his mind [firsts with Kessinger]. We also know for a fact that Kessinger specifically didn’t like the idea not only of being second to Watts wife, but of having seconds in other respects, such as child bearing. She wanted to be first.

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Interestingly, on July 4th when she’d visited his home the first time, and they’d argued, she went to a baseball game and expected to meet someone there she’d contacted on eHarmony. But apparently this person had stood her up, as had many other suitors on the App. So she was keeping her options open, putting herself first, and yet there’s a sense that pressure was being exerted on him to put her first.

Meanwhile, Shan’ann was doing the same. She wanted to be first, and as a result of Nut Gate, she even wanted Watts to have nothing to do with his own parents. So in a very short space of time, two women very close to him were sort of twisting his arm, saying prove to me I’m #1 in your life.


If folks are adamant about narcissism, and how narcissism relates to the Watts case, well this is where it certainly does. Is it narcissistic to want to be treated as valuable by someone else? When is it healthy narcissism to demand to be treated better, and when does it become unhealthy? Was is healthy for the mistress to want to be a priority? Was it healthy for Watts to not want to be in a marriage where he felt second best? Was it healthy for Shan’ann to demand that Watts sacrifice his relationship with his parents as a result of Nut Gate, so that her hegemony over his existence could continue? We can see that this issue – of how much we are valued – isn’t unique to the Watts case, it’s universal. This is why conflating narcissism with true crime, or with this case in particular, makes no sense and reveals absolutely no insight into the authentic dynamics of this case. This is because we are all narcissists, and the relevant narcissism in this story is no different to the narcissism in all our stories.

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When I read the love note for the first time the part that stood out the most was the word addicted. Sometimes when people are in love they act like people who are drunk or on drugs. You can get addicted to another person. You can feel like you are dependent on them for your happiness, or even that your life depends on being with them.

The part I missed was the true significance of the firsts. While I was aware of him trying to reassure her of her priority in his life, especially with his departure imminent, I didn’t realize what he was doing here was exactly what he was always doing – generally, during the First Confession, the Second and the Third. He tells people what they want to hear. And he knew Nichol wanted to hear she was first. Not only did know that, he wanted to make that happen. The murders were about putting her first.

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The first thing he did when he got to North Carolina was try to get rid of Niko. That was so that she could give him his first son. Nichol knew he wanted a son, and at that moment, it was the one thing Shan’ann hadn’t quite given him yet. Little did Kessinger know, that door was closing fast in her face as well. But Watts did know. And he wanted to close it if he could.

Part of Kessinger’s desperation and urgency, I think, lay in the comparative reality that her best friend Charlotte was engaged and about to get married. Not only was Kessinger struggling with her love life, she was effectively single.

One has the impression she wanted to snap her fingers and not be left behind. And the horrible manifestation of this insta-fairy tale, was Watts magically transforming his home situation so that Nichol could walk right in, and his family would simply have vanished.

Vanish is a word he used to the FBI and to the media. It has magical undertones. Watts was trying to perform a magic trick to make his mistress happy, so that she want him and felt wanted in return, so that she felt like she had what she deserved and so that he deserved her.

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  1. Karen

    You are forgetting he was never close to his family. He talked about how his sister would run away but kept coming back but he left at 18 AND NEVER LOOKED BACK. Once they moved to CO they saw his parents twice a year. Cindy says he did not talk on the phone. Does not sound like he came from a functional family which you are leaving out if all of this. It is his fault he choose not to get help and change but all you have to do is listen to Cindy all and you can tell how he became so screwed up.

  2. Sideaffected

    It’s interesting how he cares so much what others think-which is why he’s always telling people what they want to hear-but he doesn’t really care ABOUT them. All his placating and nice guy act is all about putting himself first still, to manipulate them into ultimately getting what he wants. Parents often automatically put their kids first, or at least they couldn’t harm their kids to make sure their own needs are met. It’s fascinating too watching him try to figure out what normal is- he thinks everyone thinks like him-but he “read that people usually don’t kill their kids” and he doesn’t realize that it isn’t normal to be “over it” in 6 months etc.

  3. sully727

    I just can’t watch those Shan’ann videos anymore. To me this one in part just totally illustrates what was wrong in that family. “Hi Amanda. Hi Mary.” “Say hi Bella. Say hi CeCe”. And there is Chris in the background. No one looks to be thrivin’ to me.
    Waiting anxiously for “Silver Fox”.

  4. sully727

    Nick, waiting not so patiently for “Silver Fox” ! Been checking multiple times a day to see if it is ready. Posts like this one about NK with all the detail, supporting facts and insight just make me want the book that much more. Read all 9 in the Watts series. I love that feeling of a new book you can’t wait to dive into – like when I was a kid at the library. Like many others, I pretty much read your books in one sitting – have stayed up all night more than once. I just wish this case weren’t true crime. I can’t shake it – so many facets, so many secrets. And we’ve got you to do all the heavy lifting, so to speak . Sorry don’t mean to pressure about the book – enjoying the YouTube videos as well.

    • nickvdl

      The wait is almost over. 😉

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